Sunday, May 31, 2015

Intro to NaturallySpeaking and Hands-Free Computer Use

My blog is about empowering wheelchair users. Bowling with an IKAN Bowler® is a great deal of fun, and having success with an activity like bowling, can encourage users to tackle additional challenges in their lives (so says therapeutic recreation experts).

One such challenge for quadriplegics like me is learning to use a computer – hands-free. I do so using voice software, in particular Dragon NaturallySpeaking along with KnowBrainer and SpeechStart+, which are third-party applications that make Dragon much more user-friendly for hands-free use.

I did a video (screencast) demonstrating how I used Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12.5, along with KnowBrainer 2012, and SpeechStart+. The goal of the video was/is to help people who are new to voice software to get acclimated and functional, because it is quite frustrating to not know how to begin or literally what to say. I experienced that frustration in the beginning myself.

I sought feedback about my demonstration on the message board, because many of the regular posters on their user forums are real experts regarding the different facets of voice software. The demo was well received, but I kept the YouTube link unlisted, because I did not explain everything I should have (and I also misspoke a couple times). Most notably, I did not explain that saying "MouseGrid" puts a numbered grid over the entire screen (like a tic-tac-toe board) with 1-2-3 across the top, 4-5-6 in the middle, and 7-8-9 across the bottom. Saying "Mouse 1" (for example) immediately puts the grid in the upper left corner, and users can keep saying numbers to "zoom in" until the arrow is in the correct spot (there are ways to reduce the tediousness of using the mouse by voice).

With that description, I think my demo video of hands-free computer use will make sense:

I am sharing the link on my blog now, because I just realized that it could still be helpful for some folks. What made me realize that is another person on the message board shared a very thorough overview of voice software, which he wrote to also help new people get acclimated and learn tips, etc. to make hands-free computer use much more user-friendly and easier to learn.

His writeup specifically mentions using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5, one version before Dragon 12.5 which I demonstrated with my video. And reading his overview, I still found it helpful, and I thought others might, so I asked him for permission to share it and he agreed:

Overview of hands-free computer use written by DSR

That said, the current version of Dragon is 13, which the experts will tell you is much improved (and I concur, although I am not on the expert level yet – I still have plenty to learn). The KnowBrainer folks also released a new version, and I plan to do an updated demonstration with Dragon 13, KnowBrainer 2015, and SpeechStart+ and maybe some additional third-party applications that I want to investigate in the near future.

But for now, my above video might be useful, or the above writeup by "DragonSpeechRookie" might be beneficial.

May God bless us all.

Bill :-)

William A. Miller, BSBA, ME
C1-2 Quadriplegic with a 255 High Bowling Game
Co-founder of Manufacturing Genuine Thrills Inc. d/b/a MGT
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